We have been back from holiday for over a month now, but as you can imagine with a trip so different and magical, it seems like an eternity ago.
I realised that I had been remiss in not really discussing my general feelings about the holiday and although I have gone into the specific days of the trip in great detail, I have not summarised my, or our feelings, which many people have been asking about, so I though I would attempt to look at the good (and bad?) points of such a holiday, for the record.
There are many good points about hiring an RV in the States, which are simply related to the fact that you have the freedom to tour the mass expanse of the United States with all its beauty and variety, but much of this you could do, for example, if you hired a car (big enough for seven people with luggage, in our case). This in itself would be tight and compact in anything but an RV, although the gas would undoubtedly be cheaper in a smaller, lighter more economical car and I can’t help feeling that you would be struggling to think you had had a holiday after travelling for a few weeks in a small car. 2,500 miles in an MPV? I don’t think so! So here is the main advantage of an RV. It is sufficiently large to allow a certain amount of freedom of movement, to have cases unpacked all the time, rather than living out of a suitcase and let’s not underestimate the advantage of having a mobile ‘rest room’, especially when the distance between suitable stops can easily be 30-40 miles or more.
The size of the RV, is simultaneously its greatest advantage and it’s biggest downfall though, since with size comes a significant lack of manoeuvrability and economy. The beast took a deal of getting used to, even on the spacious routes in the US and reversing was a constant nightmare, especially at nighttime in the dark, where you can’t see the person behind, helping you to back into a limited space! Navigating some of the winding, hilly roads was also a challenge; I will remember the route up and down towards the forests of Muir Woods, to the north of San Francisco, for some time and waking in a cold sweat from one of those “we’ve lost our steering and brakes” type dreams in the future, would not surprise me.
This, of course, is one of the reasons that many people tow a car behind them with an RV, not only for the convenience, but also so that the mobile hotel does not have to be your only mode of transport. It would have been useful for us on a number of occasions and would have made things easier regarding, for instance, getting into the city centres of San Francisco or Las Vegas, or simply ‘popping to the shops’ which was impractical in the RV, considering not only the manoeuvrability, but also the not insubstantial logistics of parking the titanic automobile. The inconvenience of unhooking and hooking the utilities all the time while apparently minor also quickly becomes a chore to be avoided at all costs; imagine getting under the sink to disconnect the waste pipe each time you need to go to the shops for a Mars Bar and you’ll have some idea of the potential schlep of not being organised! Clearly the down side to this is that there would be significant extra costs associated with the hire of a second vehicle that is predominantly ‘just along for the ride’, from both the car hire and RV hire companies (for the privilege), as well as the ‘gas’ companies as a result of the even further reduced economy.
So, you could conceivably do the distance in a smaller car if the size of your party was smaller, and you could easily get motels or even go camping as many of the RV sites we stayed in also had camping facilities. I cannot imagine this would be at all feasible, or more importantly enjoyable, for Team Pomeroy though and the cost of extra motel / hotel rooms would have mounted up over time, even in comparison to the cost of the RV parks, which were anything from $40-$75 per night.
Well, admittedly the balance between travelling enormous distances and enjoyment of the sights and locations we visited was indeed a tough one, but I think we managed to get it about right. Most of the time the places we stayed, either had a swimming pool, or were next to some form of natural water (Lake Tahoe, Lake Powell). In fact the only place that didn’t have water, was Westlake, Yosemite, ironically. Even the next day, we had the hot springs in Benton to enjoy on the morning of our stay. Had we arrived earlier we would no doubt have enjoyed the soothing warmth of the naturally heated water late into the evening, but as it was late when we pitched up, it is academic.
On a beach holiday, could you be in a major metropolis one night and next to a moutain lake the next, and then running through a desert the following?
Sure on a beach holiday, you can visit different places, see different sights, but I’ll bet it would be tough to get the expanse, variety and different combination of experiences that we got, from a single centre holiday. I guess you could change to a Multi-centre trip; say 3/4/5 days in each place. And you might get a similar experience, but to get the same, you’d probably be talking about flying, hotels, packing and so on, and then again you run the risk of getting the ‘living out of a suitcase’ feeling.
No. I think that actually there are very few places in the world where you can go that would afford you the opportunity to see so many different environments and fabulous sights, from the vast expanse and raw beauty of the Salt Flats to the bleak mountain deserts of Nevada, through the alpine summer of Lake Tahoe to the thriving metropolis’s of San Francisco and Las Vegas, all totally different places in their own rights which could have provided their own entertainment for many more days than we could spend in them, and then add to that all the natural wonders of the Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon and Zion national parks through to the man-made astonishment of the Hoover Dam, Route 66 nostalgia at Williams, and the simple pleasures of all the other places we saw and people we met.
Even travelling between places it was a delight to see such pure variety within a relatively ‘short’ distance from day to day, and yet also give the traveller the capability to move about with ease on the open roads and in such a relaxed and free manner, without having to book ahead, as safe in the knowledge that a plentiful supply of places would exist in the majority of towns and cities we visited. I think it is the combination of the two that really makes the holiday. Time is always a factor though, and although we were had the RV for 16 days we could easily have done with another couple of days to see the giant redwoods in California and Monument Valley in Arizona, the two places that faired negatively from adjustments in our itinerary by the end of the trip
In summary, I would struggle to find a better way to enjoy the huge variety that the USA has to offer the curious traveller, provided you are aware of the costs involved, and it is critically important to be balanced between travelling and stopping in order to feel you’ve had a holiday at the end of your vacation.